Opinions Thu, 7 Aug 2014

EPAs: The bitter pill of imperialism that must not be swallowed.

A village farmer once said in an interview that if you come to me; claiming that you are coming to give me happiness and I reject your happiness package, and you go and come back with the package trying to force me to accept it and I reject it for the second time, but you come back the third time trying to persuade me to accept your package that you claim will make me happier than I am now, then it is your own happiness you are looking for.

There has been an unending argument across the West African sub region since the European Union proposed an Economic Partnership Agreement between the UE and West African states. A lot of the so called experts from the EU have been schooling West Africans on how economically beneficial this agreement will be for the West African states. Despite the romantic forecast that has been laid before the people of West Africa, there has been stern opposition from a section of the people of the various states in the sub region against the signing of this agreement. A majority of the people who are against the signing of this agreement are common people who may be seen arguing with no figures and forecasts like the so called experts. Their arguments, most often than not comes from philosophical and historical points of views which are usually rubbished as emotional talks. I may be put into such a class of debaters on this issue at the end of the day but the truth of the matter is that, abandoning philosophical and historical approach to the interrogation of this issue may leave us with a skewed reason(s) for which we will accept the agreement: a reason based on the optimistic economic forecast that has been presented by the EU who are bent on seeing this agreement signed.

By philosophical approach, I mean that we need to reason and come to a logical conclusion as to what is the human motivation behind the decision of the EU to see this agreement through, come what may. Is it an act of altruism being displayed by the leaders of the EU? Are they motivated by greed for profit for themselves and their constituents and to perpetuate the current global economic order? And by historical approach, we need to interrogate the kind of trade relationship that has existed between us and Europe since 1885 and use that analysis as a guide into making such an important decision that has the tendency to perpetuate the imperialistic exploitation of African people. In paying attention to figures and forecasts alone (which can always be manipulated), we lose sight of the fact, that we are dealing with human actions which are not always rational and can be subject to greed, fear and egoism. For any African to enter into any sort of agreement ( especially economic agreement) with any of the world economic powers without taking the colonial and post colonial history into consideration, then that African must be suffering from amnesia. The story of Africa and the West, both colonial and post colonial must not be retold in this piece because it a well known story of plunder and exploitation. Over these few years of trade liberalization, the story hasn’t changed. The only thing that has changed is the means by which the plundering and exploitation is done, the means have become so sophisticated and one cannot be faulted to ask if the EPA is just not one of these sophisticated means by which African people will be exploited.

In the world of economics, we know too well of many romanticized visions that have gone bad and the losers being those down the economic ladder. Prior to the economic crisis that hit the U.S economy in 2008, the whole world saw how optimistic their top economist were about the future, we saw them at their mathematical best, predicting how beautiful the future will be, the likes Olivier Blanchard of the U.S Federal Reserve who later became the IMF chief economist and Ben Bernanke were all optimistic, but what happened to U.S economy 2008 and its ripple effects on the global economy is an open story book for all interested to read. We also know too well of experts who are influenced to present promising forecasts that are not correct, just to take advantage of people in underdeveloped countries. John Perkins’s book ‘’ Confession of an Economic Hit Man’’ throws light on how false forecasting is systematically done to rob underdeveloped nations of their wealth.

With all the romantic pictures that are being painted of the goodies the agreement will bring to the poor people of West Africa, we are being forced to turn a blind eye on what can go wrong and what will go wrong in our economy once we enter into such a David and Goliath agreement. Even in the animal kingdom, monkeys play by sizes. How can companies who are able to acquire loans with interest as low as 3%, be allowed to compete without protection, with companies that acquire loans at 20% interest? Is there anything fair about such a competition? Is there any sub region on this planet, that has neglected sub regional trade, and has gone ahead to sign such a David and Goliath deal and has developed within the period of such an agreement and even beyond? At a time when intra Africa trade is around only 10% and going down by the day, what will be worse than signing such an agreement when we are yet to fix the problems of the lack of intra continental trade and its attendant consequences on our economies? Are we not about eating poising and hoping not to die? Are we not consciously putting the cart before the horse but hoping to move forward? This kind of agreement will be counterproductive to regional integration at all levels and our leaders know this too well.

In the West today, corporations are governments, and governments are corporations, and it is no secret that governments do the beadings of the big corporations. This covert structure exists because corporations are the backbone of their economies and governments have the duty to go out there, anywhere in the world to look for fertile playing grounds where their corporations can make big profits for repatriation, in order to keep their own economies, especially their capital and money markets going.

European governments don’t owe African people any explanations but their electorates and corporations back home. Therefore they will just be performing their duty which has been given to them by their electorates when they are pushing such bitter pills down our throat in order to see their corporations prosper, hence, strengthen their economies back home. Are they these European leaders elected to do what is morally praise worthy in the eyes of African people or they are elected to do what is necessary to make the life of their people better? I believe we will get a better picture of what we are walking into once we begin to find the right answers to questions like this.

What is the African leader doing with the mandate that has been given to him/her by the people? Are they going to sign this agreement backed with threats and set a bad precedent for other giants like China and the U.S to come with counterproductive demands similar to this?

It is another historic moment in the history Africa and our leaders have a very important decision to make which will make or break us. Any African leader who signs this agreement will leave a legacy similar to that of ancient African people who helped in capturing their own people to be sold into slavery.

kenneth NII YEBOAH (Nii Yebua)


Columnist: Yeboah, Kenneth Nii